I recently visited my hometown and was able to get out on my mountain bike for a short ride. I was excited because the local trail advocacy group has recently completed 30 miles of new trail and are advocating to the city council for investment in ecotourism. However, I feel like the group lacks an overall “strategic plan” on how to direct their efforts, and was curious on everyone’s thoughts on what makes an ideal cycling destination.
The town is situated in the mountains with high desert and forest riding at an elevation of approximately 7000 ft. There are two primary trail systems near town but separated geographically…one has a downhill trail that’s accessible via shuttle or trails. Additional trails are available but lesser known and not as well maintained. There’s a nearby ski resort that does lift ops to two downhill trails in the summer. There are are roads for road cycling with big climbs/descents and options for long rides, however most roads are chip sealed. There also isn’t any cycling infrastructure (bike lanes, dedicated bike trails, etc.) in town, and drivers aren’t always friendly to cyclists. I haven’t explored, but I’m guessing there’s some great gravel riding options waiting to be discovered. The town hosts a 12 hour race every year and previously hosted a century ride (although it didn’t take place last year).
In a lot of ways, I view the town as a blank canvass for creating a cycling destination. What drives you to travel and choose an ideal cycling get away? Events? Trails? Road riding?
For me, what attracts me to a cycling destination is always the trails first. The quality of terrain, accessibility, and variety of options for all levels is usually the primary reason for traveling to a certain place. However, what can play a big part in getting the word out/increasing awareness of a location is having an event there, either standalone or as part of a series. I only discovered some of my favorite places to ride because of races hosted there.
In my opinion, the community/town culture and buy-in to cycling also plays a huge role. For a lot of towns, tourism can be a lucrative business and cycling is only getting bigger. I look at towns like Ashland, Bend and Oakridge in Oregon, along with Bellingham, Washington as model cycling towns. Places where mountain bike trails are legal and fun, and the community has invested in attracting riders from all over to stay, dine, and ride there. As far as towns who are on their way to making it, I think Redding CA, and Ely NV all understand the work it takes to rebrand a town as a cycling destination and have put a lot of work into it. TrainerRoad’s home town here in Reno NV is getting better and better these days, with much more community involvement and investment in outdoor recreation.
I think it has to start with great trails, or routes (road, gravel). If the town already has some tourist infrastructure (accommodation, restaurants, breweries) that helps accelerate things as it’s makes it a more pleasant stay, and there’s a tax base that has a vested interest in bringing more people to the town, hence can generate funding.
An epic event can also do it (Leadville, Emporia) but that can be hard to pull off.
East Burke, Vt. and the Kingdom Trails is a good example of how to turn cycling into an economic engine that benefits a whole town. Dozens of landowners there grant access and in exchange the trail network draws thousands and thousands of riders to the town where they spend money in the stores and restaurants. They also pay small daily fee (like a lift ticket almost) to be permitted to ride on the trails.
If you look at bigger cities, I think the biggest gains to be made aren’t really with Middle Aged Men in Lycra. It’s in creating safe and easy-to-use linkages between schools and neighborhoods and stores and libraries and neighborhoods so that short trips become comfortable for all kinds of cyclists. Wherever possible this means separation from traffic. Rail trails, protected bike lanes, cycle tracks - anything but sharrows. In most places this kind of transformation encounters resistance from drivers who think they are losing something but activism works and becomes easier as people see the gains accruing to lifestyle and also to property values.
I’m a big believer that those of us who cycle confidently on the road need to be advocating for the much greater proportion of people who will never feel safe doing what we do. Complete streets and active transportation are worth fighting for. End of sermon.
I take the opposite view - government policy is what forced people into cars by making it the only viable option to travel in much of the country. Adding options to the table by making other forms of transportation safe and viable isn’t forcing anything. It’s increasing freedom of choice. Good for people. Good for the economy. Good for the planet.
Exactly, when adults are reckless and irresponsible, like children, that won’t change their behaviour no matter how often they’ve been told it’s bad then you treat them like children and we dictate to them until they wise the hell up or die off. No-one has a right to pollute and endanger others because of an accident of birth.
Either way, the grown ups need to take control because things have gone too far.
Massive taxes and huge fines. Prison sentences for repeat offenders who cause more than a certain amount of pollution per year. We have the smart tech to track everything now so enough is enough. Nappy time is over.